Manitoba's health minister has issued a cease and desist order to a Winnipeg thermography clinic after seeing a CBC News investigation that raises questions about the diagnostic test for breast cancer.
Health Minister Theresa Oswald said Tuesday that the province has ordered the thermography clinic on Tache Avenue to stop operating, while officials conduct their own investigation into thermography and claims the clinic has made about the technology.
"It's sort of the worst kind of exploitation, I think, and that's the exploitation of somebody's fear about cancer," she said.
Oswald said she will be contacting federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq with her concerns about thermography, which has been called into question by medical authorities and some breast cancer survivors.
The CBC News investigation has identified dozens of clinics across Canada, including the Winnipeg clinic, offering thermography for breast examinations for more than $200 a visit.
Thermography uses a heat-sensitive infrared camera to take images of the body.
The Tache Avenue clinic has claimed that while thermography is not a replacement for other diagnostic tests, it can detect early indicators of breast cancer much sooner.
Linda Venus, a breast cancer survivor who continues to undergo screening, said she did some research into thermography after hearing about it from a friend.
"I told my friend that I didn't believe in this … that I thought it was a lot of bunk," she told CBC News.
As it turns out, the Canadian Cancer Society and a number of medical authorities worldwide agree that there is no proof thermography actually works as a diagnostic tool for breast cancer.
"It's not effective at detecting breast cancers," said Gillian Bromfield, senior manager of cancer control policy at the Canadian Cancer Society.
"It misses the large majority of breast cancers and, on top of that, it also detects cancers when there actually are none."
False sense of security
Medical experts say false positives from thermography tests are gumming up the system, resulting in patients worrying about the results of tests that have no value.
Alternatively, the tests may be giving others a false sense of security about their health, they add.
Regulators in the United States and Australia have taken issue with thermography's claims and the science behind it.
Health Canada has since issued an order to stop unlicensed thermography devices from being imported into Canada.
A federal official told CBC News the devices have not been approved for the screening of breast cancer.
However, some Canadian clinics continue to make startling — and unproven — claims about the benefits of thermography.
"They are allowed to be there, and there is no governing body anywhere that can prevent them from being there … providing women with false information — and in some cases, false hope," Venus said.